To ride dressage is to dance with your horse, equal partners in the delicate and sometimes difficult work of creating harmony and beauty.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

What I did on my summer vacation

In my last post (Eeep – JUNE 25 😳), I mentioned looking forward to starting up lessons with Suzan again and making up for some of my lost training time this year. Well, between weather, scheduling conflicts, and a facility in quarantine lock-down, that didn't happen for months. By September I was so desperate for some instruction that when I got an invitation for an online training challenge with Amelia Newcomb in my inbox, I figured it would be better than nothing and signed up. Wouldn't you know it; the very next day Suzan texted me with a lesson slot! Thus began an intensive five weeks of training, both virtual and in-person . . . but wait; I'm getting ahead of myself.

I have taken plenty of "proof of life and riding" photos since my last post, but haven't posted them because other than "proof," there wasn't much to report. So here they are from early July on:
This may look like "proof of death," but those are relaxed horses

Riding Stella up the hill through the vineyards

messy hair; don't care

Riding up and down Matthews Creek Lane

Riding beyond Matthews Creek to the old logging roads

Snacking on the last cherries of the season
Pretty to look at, but don't touch the poison oak!

In August, I saw an appeal from the Morgan Horse Association of Oregon asking for participants in the Battle Between Breeds class at the State Fair. Even though I said "forget about showing" in my last post, this wasn't really showing; this was just being a breed representative dressed up for dressage doing walk/trot with a group of Morgans. I offered to take part, asked some questions to know how to prepare, and looked forward to a September 1st outing to further Stella's exposure to the world beyond our hill. Little did I know just how much exposure we'd get!

On the day of the class, I hauled my horse and gear to the state fairgrounds, got Stella settled in a stall provided by the MHAO, unloaded our gear, walked Stella around the grounds for a look-see (SO much to see!), saddled her up and rode in the warm-up arena, and gave her a bath (a shout-out out to my DH for lending a hand!). After a short break (it was H.O.T.), I braided Stella's mane, tacked her up, donned my show clothes, and headed back to the now-buzzing warm-up arena. Then the announcer invited – no, requested –the Battle Between Breeds participants to ALL come in and warm up in the show arena so the audience could enjoy the horses before the class. The State Fair Horse Show arena is a notoriously scary place, with a tall, solid wall and the audience perched high above, so I welcomed the chance for Stella to see it before the class. But *wow* were there a lot of horses warming up; I counted five different breed groups – Morgans, Saddlebreds, Mules, Drums, and Gypsy Vanners. I sure hoped my tense, apprehensive horse would be able to relax a bit when we went back in to show with just Team Morgan. Um, except when it was time for the class to start (after we all exited the show arena), the announcer ushered everyone, all SIX breed teams (a final team of Clydesdales rode up just in time to start the class), back into the ring to show as one giant class! What a trial by fire;  I never would have agreed to participate if I'd known what we were in for. But I couldn't back out at that point, so I did my best to keep my mare between me and the ground, and not blow it for the team. And we succeeded! Team Morgan won blues for both the rail portion and the halter portion!!!
in the warm-up arena

alert and tense

a quiet moment posing for the hubby

Team Morgan heading into the show arena

a glimpse of the crowded class

letting her stretch

lining up after the rail portion

too bad the judge didn't ASK for a rein-back!

I declined a neck ribbon; thought it might unnerve Stella (more)

leaving after the rail portion

Team Morgan with their blue ribbons (the palomino was our halter rep)

so proud of my girl in overwhelming circumstances!

I'm still waiting for the official state fair horse show photographer to post his photos; I'll share if any are good enough to do so.

A long-time horse friend who came and watched commented on Stella's often-open mouth, suggesting a flash noseband might help. Stella has always had a busy mouth; I decided to add the flash. Here she is processing the addition:
busy, busy, busy

it's pretty loose; she could eat blackberries on the trail

filter-enhanced; gorgeous girl!

Next up: From zero to sixty!

Saturday, June 25, 2022

When It's Cold She's Hot; When It's Hot She's Not

Forget for now the two and a half months I've been absent from this blog; I'm jumping in at the present. Here in NW Oregon, apparently, warm, dry, sunny weather was waiting for an invitation, which it got with the summer equinox. And just like that, summer arrived and my mare mellowed a little. So as much as I dislike hot weather, I'm going to do my best to both enjoy and capitalize on this mellowness to move our partnership forward.

Between my four trips to Texas and the extended rainy season, this year has been a wash so far when it comes to Stella's training – so forget about showing. But now that I can ride regularly again, exciting things are happening. In the 'sandbox,' we've been playing with walk/canter, canter/walk transitions (we're Intro Level going on Second; ha), and out of the sandbox she is doing so well. In spite of her nervous energy, she is more dependable with the things we encounter than solid and stolid Lance, which always amazes me. We've even gotten in a few sunset rides!

Last night we headed down through the woods and onto the logging track. It seems just last week it was too muddy to try; now it is firm and solid. Land has changed hands in recent years and there's been lots of logging, clearing and burning; I may not be welcome to ride on my old stomping grounds anymore. But there was no one to question or challenge us at dusk on a Friday night, and Stella handled the unfamiliar environment with cautious willingness. We even came back home via the vineyards (where I do have permission to ride), Stella's first experience there. It was a beautiful evening to ride my beautiful mare and doing so fed my soul richly.

I am ready to start taking lessons from Suzan again just as soon as I can get on her schedule. I also want to get in some trail rides and at least one beach ride with friends. Lance hates it when I take Stella off-property, hollering from the barn the whole time we're gone. They've become good friends, Lance and Stella, although she doesn't mind leaving him at all.

Monday, April 4, 2022

"Normal" is a setting on the washing machine

Yesterday I rode for the third time in seven and a half weeks – I think that is my longest riding dry spell in decades. I was in TX for three and a half weeks helping my parents deal with my dad's terminal diagnosis, came home to one lambing crisis after another (and got in one short ride), went back to TX after two and a half weeks for my brother's memorial service, and came home again a week ago tonight to resume bottle/assisted feedings of lambs and playing catch-up in all other areas of my life, including getting back in the saddle. My first ride this week was another short check-in with Stella, and then yesterday we actually schooled – and my girl was so good! Today was a windy, rainy mess, so I'm shooting for another ride tomorrow. After that, I'm not sure; I have a little medical procedure on Wednesday, and my dad's on hospice....

I'd love to be able to plan ahead for some lessons and shows, at least the Oregon Morgan Classic that was Stella's 2021 debut, but prudence says to hold off scheduling anything for now. I've stopped wondering when life will get back to normal; I'll just ride when I can and treasure each opportunity.

In the meantime, Lance and Stella are getting regular turnout again now that I'm home. It's shedding season, so they really enjoy reciprocal grooming. It makes me happy to see them being friends. So that can continue outside the arena, I invested in a grazing muzzle for Lance. It looks rather draconian, but he accepted it without drama when I tried it on him this week, and it will allow him to spend much more time out on pasture. I did give him a few minutes of actual grazing; he does so love to eat!